Since I was five years old, I’ve had seventeen surgeries altogether. The worst pain I’ve ever felt from a surgery, had to be the abdominal surgeries I’ve had. I’m not talking about laparoscopic surgery where only three little incisions are made. That will leave you a little bit sore, but a full on open abdominal surgery where you are cut from above your navel down to below your pants line is a pretty painful ordeal. The recovery time is much longer than any other surgery I’ve had.
Prepare for Serious Pain:
You may not realize it, but you use your abs every single time you move. The worst pain I’ve ever felt was having my intestine rip open from the inside out because of a tumor. On a scale of 1-10, that was a 10 for me. Open abdominal surgery, in comparison, would be a 7 or 8 on the pain scale. If you don’t have a high pain tolerance level, make sure and let your surgeon know. I usually have an epidural for the first few days in recovery, which is not normal and you would have to request it. I had multiple surgeries through the same incision and knew what pain I could handle and what was too much for me. Just make sure you’re well stocked up on some decent pain medication. Tummy tucks and cosmetic procedures won’t hurt as much because the muscle isn’t being cut through. After open abdominal surgery, you’ll have a hard time standing up completely straight, it hurts when you cough, walk, and move in general. My surgeon usually keeps me on a morphine or diladud drip for 4 or 5 days.
Take It Easy:
Don’t try to be a hero and lift anything heavy or think you won’t need pain medication. You don’t want to tear open your incision. You won’t be able to bathe until your scar has healed up nicely. You should be able to shower after a week or so. Until your surgeon okays it, don’t even think about getting your scar wet unless you want a serious infection.
Do take it easy but at the same time, you’ll need to get up and walk as quickly as possible. When you have an abdominal surgery, they pump gases into you to give them more room to work. Think of yourself as big balloon. When you wake up, you’re going to have some painful gas buildup, but you can’t pass the gas like normal. It’s in your abdominal cavity and has to be absorbed by your body over the next few days. It rises and this can cause shoulder pain. The quickest way to get rid of the gas is to walk. Yes, it really hurts, but you have to just suck it up and do it. The more you walk, the faster you’ll get to go home.
You’re feet and ankles may swell to two times their normal size. Again, the best way to make them go down is to walk, walk, and walk some more. In the hospital, I would just make laps around the nurses station so that they would see me and report to the doctor how much I was walking. The first couple of days, I recommend having a family member with a wheelchair right behind you. Even tough guys need to sit after an abdominal surgery. You may also feel really faint.
If you’re have an intestinal resection due to cancer or IBS; anything of that nature, you won’t be able to eat for awhile. Probably until your first bowel movement. If things aren’t working correctly after a week or so, you can expect another surgery and to be put on NPO (nothing allowed to eat or drink, not even ice chips). That is pretty torturous. I went without any food or drink for about four and a half months at one point. You will be given IV hydration. If you’ve only gone without food for a week or so, the doctors probably won’t hook you up to TPN (IV nutrition) or give you a feeding tube. TPN requires an IV line of it’s own and a feeding tube is invasive. I’ve had both, and neither is a very pleasant experience. If you must have a feeding tube that will be inserted directly into your intestines (this is done to bypass the stomach), it will be placed directly through your abdominal wall. They don’t knock you completely out for this but give you enough meds that you don’t remember most of it or feel very much pain.
Now that I have probably scared you to death, let me assure you that as long as you have a great surgeon, caring hospital staff, and a fighting spirit; you’ll make it through abdominal surgery with flying colors. You’ll need to take loose clothing to the hospital. You may want pillows and a light throw blanket for the ride home. Don’t worry about makeup, perfume, or taking a suitcase full of personal items. I do recommend taking a robe, a book or two, your own toothbrush and toothpaste, spray in detangler and brush if you have long hair, and I like to take sweat pants to wear under my hospital gown. I’m thin and get really cold in hospitals. Not to mention, hospital gowns can leave you a little ‘exposed’ on the backside. The best of luck to you.